One of the interesting side stories to the WWE-New Japan story this week is another player in the mix, TNA.
Specifically, Mike Bennett & Maria Kanellis, who built a niche for themselves in New Japan with former stablemate Matt Taven. However, because Bennett & Maria signed with TNA, they will no longer be working for New Japan.
It is widely known across the industry that New Japan is not interested in working with TNA because of how TNA handled Kazuchika Okada’s venture to the U.S. to grow as a wrestler in 2010. TNA booked Okada as a sidekick act or a jobber, mainly wrestling on Xplosion matches.
Okada, the current IWGP World Hvt. champion, then returned to New Japan in 2011 to begin his career resurgence as The Rainmaker.
TNA has a new Creative team in place that were not around to mess up Okada’s one-year stint, but NJPW officials have not forgotten how TNA handled Okada’s brief run.
Also, Bullet Club members such as Karl Anderson and A.J. Styles could have pursued TNA in 2015, but that would have ended their New Japan runs. Anderson and Styles, along with Doc Gallows, are now heading to WWE with that door opening.
Anderson has wrestled mainly in Japan for about eight years, which is stressful making the regular trek from the U.S. to Japan and back. Anderson seems to be following the path of his former NJPW tag partner, Giant Bernard (Tensai/Albert), returning to the U.S. through a WWE deal.
Coincidentally, Anderson & Bernard dropped the IWGP Tag Titles on the 2012 Tokyo Dome Show before Bernard left for WWE. Four years later, Anderson & Doc Gallows dropped the IWGP Tag Titles at the 2016 Tokyo Dome as part of the current decision to leave for WWE.